Marquette Basketball: Stock Up, Stock Down for Golden Eagles Starters
Following Saturday's win over Xavier, Marquette has notched victories in three consecutive contests, a season-high mark for the Golden Eagles. MU now posts a 15-10 record, including 7-5 in Big East play, good for a third place tie with those same Xavier Musketeers.
Buzz Williams has used plenty of different lineups over the course of the season. Davante Gardner and Todd Mayo—the team's first- and third-leading scorers, respectively—typically start the game on the bench despite their scoring prowess, leaving Marquette with a current starting five of Derrick Wilson, Jake Thomas, Juan Anderson, Jamil Wilson and Chris Otule, all of whom are upperclassmen.
Despite limitations as an offensive threat, Wilson sees the floor more than any Golden Eagle, averaging 29.9 minutes per game. While Wilson is primarily known as a floor general and on-ball defender, his scoring has increased five times over from his sophomore season, upping his scoring average from 1.1 to 5.5 points.
Wilson arguably had the best game of his collegiate career on Saturday afternoon, putting together a performance of nine points, three rebounds, four assists, six steals and zero turnovers in 39 minutes of action. Wilson was the lead defender on Xavier stud sophomore Semaj Christon, who was limited to 10 points.
Wilson has been on the rise since temporarily losing his job to freshman John Dawson in an overtime win at Georgetown. Wilson scored 14 points on February 1 at St. John's and twice dished out eight assists in recent games. He's been steady with the ball, committing zero turnovers over the course of his past 66 minutes.
After connecting on only 2-of-10 three-point attempts in wins over Butler and Seton Hall, Thomas had his coming out party Saturday afternoon. Thomas buried 6-of-10 shots from behind the arc, leading the Golden Eagles in scoring with 18 points in 38 minutes of PT.
On the year, Thomas has been successful on more than 38 percent of his long-distance attempts and has only attempted 22 two-pointers all year. Despite a lack of visual explosiveness on either the court or box score, Thomas is a hustler and underrated defender.
Just months ago, it looked like Thomas was on his way out of the Marquette program. Then Vander Blue chased greener pastures of professional basketball, allowing Thomas to step in as Marquette's fourth leading scorer and best long-range bomber.
Similar to Thomas, Anderson had planned on leaving Marquette following last season's Elite Eight. Anderson quickly changed his mind and returned to Milwaukee, filling a similar role as he did as a sophomore. Despite starter status, Anderson only plays 13.6 minutes per game.
Anderson scores 3.5 points and grabs 3.5 rebounds during those minutes, but is more valuable on the defensive end of the court. There, Anderson averages 1.0 steal and plays with a high level of energy. The 6'6" forward can guard multiple positions and isn't afraid to make winning plays, such as diving for loose balls.
Anderson's playing time has been down recently, as he has only reached double-figure minutes twice over the course of Marquette's last eight contests. He has scored only nine points during those eight games, six of which came on 3-of-5 shooting in 21 minutes at Seton Hall last Tuesday.
Realizing that Marquette's season was on the brink, Jamil Wilson has gone into overdrive mode scoring in double figures in eight of the team's past nine games. Wilson is averaging 19.3 points during the Golden Eagles' current three-game winning streak, including a 9-of-13 mark from behind the arc.
Wilson, MU's second-leading rebounder at a 5.4 board clip, double-doubled at Seton Hall last week, scoring 25 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, his second double-double on the season. Wilson is also Marquette's second leading scorer, contributing 12.2 points per night, sitting only behind Davante Gardner in both scoring and rebounding.
As a redshirt senior, Wilson is the de-facto leader for Williams' squad. He and Blue were the leading ingredients in the team's deep NCAA tournament run last March and will need to combine with Gardner, as well as Mayo, to even get the Golden Eagles back into the field of 68.
Otule has played for Marquette as long as Williams has been the team's head coach—six seasons. Otule has been incredibly consistent during his time in Milwaukee. He has averaged between 5.0 to 5.8 points, 3.5 to 4.4 rebounds and 1.0 to 1.6 blocked shots in 17.6 to 17.8 minutes during each of the past four seasons.
Otule and Gardner substitute in and out for each other countless times each contest, as Otule is the better defender while Gardner's offensive skills are more honed. Otule has scored in double figures on five occasions this season, none of which have come during the past 11 games.
At 6'11" and 275 pounds, Otule shoots at a high rate inside the paint, converting on more than 60 percent of his shots, though he'll miss a bunny or two on occasion. While the Otule-Gardner duo haven't played on the court together often, they do form a complete player with their combined minutes.
With Marquette's offensive struggles at times, expect Gardner to see a greater portion of those minutes the rest of the way.